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by Gavin Tang


A spiritual scientific perspective. Part 2 of a 3 part article





There are basically two parts to our present economic life. One is what I call the goods and services economy where people and organisations produce, sell and consume commodities. Money functions as a medium of exchange in this economy. There is also what can be called the capital economy where money is used for buying non-commodities in order to make more money – labourless income as I called it earlier. Let’s say a rich person has $10 million in assets. On a 5% ‘return’ on his investments in either land, labour (shares) or capital (bonds or high interest accounts), that is $500,000 a year of labourless income. On a not-so-modest lifestyle that involves spending $100,000 in goods and services a year, that leaves $400,000 to be rolled over into more investments. Over a certain level of wealth , there is a class whose wealth not only provides them with a nice income – the wealth is growing ‘by itself’, so to speak.


This, amongst other things, creates unemployment because unemployment is simply a result of a lack of monetary demand for goods and services. Unemployment in its statistical sense is almost meaningless. It is a legalistic device that obscures the truth that with unemployment, all working people suffer as they have to accept lower wages or prices for their work. In the above example, only the $100,000 spent creates demand for goods and services and hence gets people employed in catering for that demand. The other $400,000 leaves a ‘shortfall’ in demand for goods and services.


Assume the $10 million are invested in shares. The share dividends are made out of company profits which means that it is taken out of a) the workers who engage in production within these companies, b) the government if the corporations avoid taxes, c) consumers who have to contribute in the way of higher prices and d) the environment if and when the corporations plunder the environment or – as environmentalists put it – ‘externalise their costs onto the environment’. The $500,000 is earned at the expense of the body social (even with ‘ethical investments’). We should get used to the idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch.


As capital grows on capital, the goods and services economy has to work faster, harder and more desperately to feed capital growth. The whole system has to collapse at some stage. Earlier I described it as cancer and the relationship is more than just an allegory because like cancer it reaches deep into our soul life.


The three factors of production and the threefold soul life

Recall what was said earlier about the creation of money out of a social contract; how money is created in credit creation (loan making); how money becomes a ‘pure’ medium in ledger/computer money at which point we visualise money as a flow of numbers, a non-spatial and non-physical entity that goes from one account to another. In essence this quality of money (as a non-spatial entity) is already there in gold and silver but the physicality of metals distracts us from its true quality. Gold or silver as a commodity – which rightfully can be owned – overshadows the spiritual value of gold  and silver as a medium of exchange – and this should not be ‘ownable’, as we shall shortly see.


When one thinks about it, ‘pure’ money – ledger money - has no spatial dimension or meaning and has only a temporal or time ‘dimension’. There is nothing physical or spatial about it, yet it is very real and exists in the realm of concept. Pure money is pure time. Debt for example compounds over time. Money lends itself (quite rightly) to artificial intelligence (computers where the information stored as bytes/electrons have no spatial dimension) and when one sees how computers get progressively smaller and faster, one sees how money, thinking, time and space relate. Space diminishes while time increases in importance.


Land on the other hand is ‘pure space’ and it is so much in the physical world that we don’t have to think about it in the same way as capital/money.


In anthroposophy, one learns that generally the east works out of the forces of thinking oriented towards the past. Buddhism for example – with its emphasis on clear thinking – looks back on past lives with only a ‘process of non-attachment’ to say about the future; whilst Hindus by and large find it tolerable not to help the poor and miserable because it is believed to be a consequence of their past lives.


The west looks towards the future and the life after death and its focus is on the will forces and doing things, e.g. helping the poor gets one a place in heaven or something like that. The will forces enhance the process of individuation and the sense of freedom (breaking away from the past or the herd). The thinking forces ‘support’ that which is universal and communal – a thought, if it is true, is true for all peoples and places.


With their profound and largely unconscious proclivity to will activity and individuality, people in the west have largely fought for ‘freedom’ through land ownership. Land ownership gives a sense of ego and individuality (‘my castle’, ‘my land’). In the incarnation process, the ownership of land gives men a feeling – albeit an artificial one – of having ‘arrived’, being grounded and having one’s home on earth. Land is testament to their egohood. The sense for and rhetoric about freedom in American political discourses is largely coloured by the concept of private ownership of land and has been imprinted on the folk soul because of the abundance of fertile land that was there for the taking in the early days – the Indians notwithstanding. The very American concept of the right/freedom to bear arms stems from the right to defend one’s property/land and hence the subconscious association in much of the American Weltanschauung of freedom and arms. In fact, using arms is almost synonymous with exercising one’s freedom. It is thus not difficult to understand that if banks are related to capital and the soul force of thinking, then the military is related to land and willing.


Labour in the sense that we are studying it here belongs in the middle between capital and land. Labour can be equated with the production process and here we can identify with the modern share-owned corporation. Labour is neither wholly fixed in time nor in space. The production of anything of a physical nature has to take into account the time and space in which it is to take place. Further, if capital is a pure product of the human intellect and land is Nature-given, labour is located in the middle between the products of the intellect and Nature. We shall continue the study of the relationship between labour and the feeling/middle realm in the next section.


Implications for the soul life – a short commentary

Under capital and compound interest, we suffer from ‘time compression’ as the whole of society pushes itself to avoid debt (debt compounds over time). Apart from the obvious stresses, there is an important soul effect which goes largely unnoticed. This involves hurrying to achieve a decision or answer to a problem – and this paves the way for materialistic and intellectual thinking. Intellectual thinking, for example, can hurry a child into reading and get quick results. It does not know or bother to know that such children may develop an abhorrence for reading in later life or become unable to think things through to the end. One learns in anthroposophy that some truths take a long period of reflection before they become ‘true’. One literally has to sleep on things for confirmation from the spiritual world. The most difficult truths even take a few lifetimes to acquire. Living in a time-compressed environment fosters a cunning intellect that displaces wisdom. Lawyers kill off the poets. Using the language of anthroposophy, we can say that time compression makes it difficult to think with the etheric body. The physical brain takes over thinking and only materialistic ‘logical’ thoughts are produced. The etheric body is often called a time body because it inhabits the weaving of time. To think with the etheric body means to think with life, creativity and an awareness of spiritual realities.


With land we experience spatial expansion. Through land ownership, we identify our Self with the land and experience in a very diluted and distorted way what in initiation terms may be called ecstasy. The ego is released into and becomes one with the outer world (as experienced in the Germanic/Celtic mysteries). As mentioned earlier, this fosters a false sense of ego and freedom. True freedom is achieved by the active employment of the will in thinking (as Steiner showed in his Philosophy of Freedom). Thus, spatial expansion promotes egotism and this egotism orientates itself in the world with an intellectualised thinking that is fostered by time compression. Lucifer inflames the will through land ownership and spatial expansion whilst Ahriman gets a grip on thinking through debt and compound interest.


Under labour, it is not the thinking or willing life that is primarily affected. It is the middle, the feeling life that is hardened or desensitised when people work for wages (this applies only in profit-making enterprises; a different ethos applies in non-profit or public service work) and under a hierarchy that is (financially) imposed from above. The owners of capital treat labour as a ‘cost of production’ and thereby try to maximise its efficiency whilst minimising its cost. The labourer/worker subconsciously (for the most part) resents this imposition and labours under the illusion that he/she works for money. The (potential) reality that we work for one another and have our needs met by others is not realised and work is reduced to a drudgery or a competitive scene (between workers). Under this system, the hierarchy employs and promotes the most efficient, which very often means the most ruthless – the ones who will extract the most production for labour costs.1 The human-to-human relationship is either broken or severely damaged and it is the feeling life that suffers.


An exercise for the reader. In The Fifth Gospel (lecture no. 5 and others), Rudolf Steiner describes the three temptations of Christ by Lucifer and Ahriman shortly after His incarnation in the body of Jesus. There is a correlation between the three temptations – as described by Steiner – and Lucifer and Ahriman’s role in the three factors of production. An understanding of the relationship gives some insight to the Second Mystery of Golgotha. See footnote no. 4.


Why land, labour and capital are community assets


Capitalism quite rightly, if somewhat unconsciously, grasps that in the economic life, the processes of production, distribution and consumption should be privately managed. We can easily understand why it should be so by looking at the opposite, namely communism or, in its more virulent form, Bolshevism. What capitalism gets wrong is that the three factors of production should be privately owned. The above three processes (of production, distribution and consumption) belong to the ‘creative’ or active world. It is the doing/verb part of the world and it belongs quite rightly to the individual because only individual freedom can will things into existence. Communities, properly speaking, do not initiate things – individuals do. The ‘created’ or noun part of the world, the three factors, is there for all of us to share. Factors are ‘factual’ or fixed. Processes involve a continuous ‘dying and becoming’. 2, 3 From a certain point of view, the ‘privatisation’ of the three processes provides the external support for freedom; the communal ownership of the three factors lays the basis for fraternity and love in the world. True freedom does not exist without true love and vice-versa.


Privately owned capital viz. privately owned banks generate most of their income through interest on loans. The inequity and iniquities of our banking system bore the brunt of the anti-globalisation protests in the early years with a “Fifty years is enough” campaign against the IMF and WB in 1994 marking the fiftieth anniversary of these institutions. The protests focused on debt and the illogic of compound interest with its devastating impact – starvation, wholesale destruction of the environment, inhuman working conditions, dispossessed farmers and entire rural communities, the lack of government funding for health, education and just about anything that required public funding.


It is fairly easy to imagine why and how capital (or banking) should not be privately owned if we visualise (for conceptual purposes) money that exists only as ledger money. When the central bank ‘prints’ money by simply typing it up in its ledgers, the money from there can only move through one account to another. The central bank’s computers or ledgers can only move the money to accounts that it recognises. Outside of this the money cannot exist. If one thinks about this clearly, one would have to conclude that no one can ‘own’ money. The money in anyone’s account is only there to mediate exchanges of goods and services. This already happens with notes and coins but because we can physically hold it back from circulation, we suffer the illusion that we can ‘own’ it.4 Once we understand that no individual can own such money and hold it back from circulation (and then charge interest on lending it out), we should then easily grasp that only the community can lend money in the credit creation sense (see previous article). This means, amongst other things, that interest on loans becomes community revenue (much like general taxation) or that loans can be made without interest (usury) – failed loans being made up for out of general taxation. In the next article, I will describe in more details how this may come about.


Ownership of land historically entailed war. If in our ‘civilised’ society, we settle ownership through buying and selling or judicial processes; we have only refined the warring process into the economic and political life – buy low, sell high, manipulate the legal processes etc.


When the demand for any commodity – fridges, coffee, mascara – goes up, supply almost immediately increases to take up the extra profits to be made and hence bring the price back down again. This is not so with land. The supply does not go up with prices in order that the latter comes back down. We do not produce or consume land like other commodities. It is Nature-given. It is the same with natural resources. They are community property.


If communism makes the mistake of telling individuals how to use their land, then capitalism makes the mistake of allowing them to own the land. We thus must distinguish between ownership and use. If individuals (or groups) want to use land – even if only for building a house on – then they should be renting it from the community. Houses and other improvements are distinct from land itself and they can/should be privately owned. (In other words, if someone buys a privately owned house built on community land, they would be taking over the lease.) The general principle is not hard to see but of course there are many practical details which can not be broached in such a short article. The point is that land generates ongoing community revenue (meaning better funding for pensions, health, schooling etc.) and does not make would-be land owners pay more and more for land (and feeding banks with ever bigger mortgages).


The idea that land can be privately owned leads easily to the idea that natural resources (attached to land) can then be privately owned. Our modern corporations have utilised this process to do untold damage to our environment whilst reaping great profits. When land is commonly perceived to be a community asset, then it would follow almost automatically that the extraction or harvesting of any natural resource is a community decision without any group or organisation having more say in the matter because they have the money.5


“Share ownership is the work of Ahriman in the sphere of finance” wrote Rudolf Steiner.


Large corporations are almost universally listed on the stock market. The shareholders (the large majority of shares are held by yet other companies) own the company and then vote in CEOs and directors whose job is basically (or only) to maximise profits. These directors than hire high level managers with the same brief and so on down the chain of command. It is a quasi-military setup. The anti-social practices of corporations are so well documented and easily available elsewhere that I won’t even sum them up here.


The corporation holds the middle between the bank and the military. The major banks are themselves share owned corporations and in the US, the corporations are the beneficiaries of the enormous amounts of funding that goes to the military. Every war in modern democratic societies (including the American civil war and the so-called Cold War) has entailed enormous profits for arms manufacturers and military contractors – corporations again.


Through cross ownership (shares having share ownership in each other), all sections of the stock market have a vested interest in every other section. Many arms manufacturers for example have a direct or indirect financial interest in media companies (and vice-versa) and so on. This process is strengthened through the practice of interlocking directors – directors sitting on a number of boards who report to every board the minutes from the other companies. The general picture should be clear: that there is an institutional problem which pits profit pursuing companies against ‘natural’ persons. Private capital is at odds with the larger community and regularly colludes against it. The innate tendency for the share owned corporation to collude against the community is demonstrated in the activities of the WTO which is a quasi-legal body effectively run by corporations.


Ultimately the resolution of this unhealthy state of affairs rests on the question of ownership. Private capital can only make a return on its share investments by using labour as a cost of production (paying wages). Community capital does not have to. Let’s try to imagine how that might be without resorting to communism.


Community capital now buys a company or starts it up from scratch. Such a company may be as small as the local hardware store or bakery with only four workers; or it may be as big as a car manufacturing plant. The workers within the company then sort out amongst themselves how they will parcel out the profits (it need not or should not be equal), vote in their own managers if need be, set down and regularly review their own agreements on work conditions etc. No-one is on wages. If the profits of the company goes up, so does everyone’s income. Labour is not entered as a cost in the ledgers. One would imagine the level of cooperation, trust and mutual aid goes up within such a company; that no boss or manager can make any major decision without the workers cooperating in making or reviewing (if necessary) that decision; that real productivity – in human and monetary terms – goes up. The ego of the human being is engaged in work and a sense of karma (even if only dimly surmised) arises out of one’s work.6


Because the company is owned by the community (via the community bank) and is the community (via the membership of its workers) the company can only operate in complete transparency and social responsibility to the larger community. In spite of this ‘community ownership’ workers paradoxically have greater freedom of expression and movement within their company. The company’s owners – the community – makes no direct profit off the company and therefore puts no pressure on workers to perform.


Reflections on the chronological order

As noted earlier, the anti-globalisation movement has shifted its focus in the last few decades from capital to labour and then to land – i.e. from the IMF/WB duo up to the mid 90’s; followed by the WTO and various ‘free trade agreements’; and since September 11, the Pentagon (the US military system).


Inasmuch as we see that capital, labour and land are related respectively to the soul forces of thinking, feeling and willing, we see a pattern that Rudolf Steiner has described in many places. He has shown that the Christ-filled ego must work on the soul forces so as to transform – very much in this chronological order – thinking into an organ of perception as Imagination, feeling into Inspiration, willing into Intuition. The events following September 11 reveal an eruption into our social life of untamed will forces. Death comes to the fore at the end of a long period of cancerous growth.


Since 1999, I have been saying in lectures that 2001, 2003 and 2005 are years pivotal to the demise of capitalism as we know it.7 As I see it, the ‘post capitalist’ society can be much more hierarchical, totalitarian and ‘anti-fraternal’ (as in ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) than it is now. A spiritual scientific approach to things should make efforts to see things happening in the soul and spiritual realm before they manifest in the physical world. Steiner called it Promethean thinking. An intellectual/Epimethean thinking can only analyse things after they happen. To be truly creative requires Promethean thinking and part of the reason that the anti-globalisation movement has not had any truly creative answers is that it has tried to grapple with the phenomenon with Epimethean thinking.8 In the next article, I will put forward some thoughts on how we can transform – in this order – capital, labour and land so that they serve the common good (or common wealth) and subsequently a ‘fraternal’ economic life.


1.        One symptom of recent years has been to ‘downsize’ even whilst profits are increasing. Shareholders employ CEOs and directors whose brief it is to maximise profits. Eliminating labour costs, i.e. sacking people, is a quick method.


2.        We can look at it slightly differently. Commodities are to be consumed, i.e. ‘destroyed’. Privatisation or individualisation takes something out of the whole (and ‘kills’ it). It is thus understandable that commodities – which are made to be consumed – belong rightly to individuals. Land, labour and capital are never consumed in the same sense. They rightly belong to the whole community.


3.        The reader familiar with Hegel’s philosophy might recognise here his ‘dialectic’ at work where contradictory arguments are synthesised to produce a third which is ‘superior’ to the first two. Marx of course took Hegel’s philosophy, ejected the spiritual content, immersed it in English economic thought and practices (including land enclosures/privatisation) and created the antithesis of ‘Marxism’. Interestingly, one may observe how Nazism is a synthesis of Bolshevism and Capitalism in that the 3 processes were communalised/nationalised whilst the 3 factors were privatised. Hitler took care not to antagonise the industrialists and bankers who bankrolled him - privatised capital; as well, in creating a war economy, he could not but nationalise all aspects of production, consumption, distribution. A farmer for instance could not slaughter his own cattle without permission from the state. Much has been written by social scientists on the relationship between Capitalism, Bolshevism and Nazism. This study of the three factors and the three processes of production should clarify a lot of things and half thought out ideas. The healthy synthesis of Bolshevism and Capitalism is as described above in the article and lays the foundation for a fraternal economy – the missing element in the call for “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.


4.        In The Fifth Gospel, Steiner describes the unresolved third temptation of Christ by Ahriman. Having just incarnated in the body of Jesus, Christ has no understanding for the earthly concept of money. According to Steiner, Ahriman says that he has something over Christ which is that “Down here on earth men have to turn stones into bread”. ‘Stones’ Steiner translates as metal/gold, i.e. “Men have to live on stones/money”. Ironically, just when money has become ‘ahrimanicised’ with computers, we can turn it around to help us grasp the fact that money is in its pure sense only a medium of exchange (a purely spiritual entity as I pointed out) and that no-one can in fact live on it. This concept is at the forefront of Michael’s battle with Ahriman – and it remains to be seen whether human souls can grasp it.


5.        The definition of ‘community’ should be the world community – not the nation-state – but that is a distant ideal I won’t go into here.


6.        Rudolf Steiner said that the greatest obstacle to the perception of reincarnation and karma as a reality is the practice of wage payment for work.


  1. Based in part on a 3x72 year rhythm since 1789 when the French revolution and the call for ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ broke out. The first 72 years = 1861 = the ‘moon node of humanity’ – a moon node being 18.61 years; also Rudolf Steiner’s birth year. 1861 is also the start of the American Civil War – a war pivotal to the rise of the modern corporation. The second 72 years = 1933, the ‘reappearance of Christ in the etheric’ and the Nazis coming to power. The third cycle ends in 2005. (There is a subtle thinking-feeling-willing pattern in these three cycles). 2001 and 2003 come into play on the basis of a 2x2 years rhythm which is a bit complex to explain in its entirety but has something to do with the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859 – 2 years before Steiner’ birth year. Darwin’s book laid the spiritual and ideological foundation for capitalism – the survival of the fittest. There is much more to all this. More info by emailing the author. (2001 = September 11, 2003 = war in Iraq.)


8.        Steiner said that the threefold society would only come about out of imaginative thinking.

© 2005 Gavin Tang

Gavin Tang was born 1961 in Papua New Guinea and currently lives a short distance from Sydney, Australia. He is particularly interested in agriculture and socioeconomic issues. He is a regular lecturer in the Sydney anthroposophical scene. He is writing a book titled 'The Death of Capitalism' (and incidentally would welcome sponsorship to finish it).



Part 3 will appear in the next issue of Southern Cross Review